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Bobby Mitchell, Redskins pioneer and Hall of Famer, dies at 84

Bobby Mitchell (M) spent several seasons as Jim Brown's (R) teammate while playing for the Cleveland Browns. File Photo by Stephen M.Gross/UPI
Bobby Mitchell (M) spent several seasons as Jim Brown's (R) teammate while playing for the Cleveland Browns. File Photo by Stephen M.Gross/UPI | License Photo

April 6 (UPI) -- Bobby Mitchell, the first African American player to ever suit up for the Washington Redskins, has died. He was 84.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame said Mitchell died on Sunday. His cause of death was not disclosed.

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"The entire Pro Football Hall of Fame family mourns the passing of Bobby Mitchell," Pro Football Hall of Fame President David Baker said. "The game lost a true legend.

"Bobby was an incredible player, a talented executive and a real gentleman to everyone with whom he worked or competed against.

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"His wife Gwen and their entire family remain in our thoughts and prayers. The Hall of Fame will forever keep his legacy alive to serve as inspiration to future generations."

Mitchell entered the league as a seventh-round pick by the Cleveland Browns in the 1958 NFL Draft. He played four seasons for the Browns before joining the Redskins in 1962 in what became one of the most famous trades in NFL history.

The Browns traded Mitchell and first-round pick Leroy Jackson to the Redskins in exchange for Ernie Davis, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1962 NFL Draft. Cleveland was planning to pair Davis with Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown, but Davis was diagnosed with leukemia that summer and never played in a game.

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Mitchell spent his final seven NFL seasons with Washington. The four-time Pro Bowl selection and 1962 All-Pro led the NFL in receiving yards in 1962 and 1963 and 10 receiving touchdowns in 1964. Mitchell had 521 catches for 7,954 yards and 65 touchdowns as a pass catcher. He also had 2,735 rushing yards and 18 rushing touchdowns. Mitchell also scored three touchdowns on punt returns and five touchdowns on kick returns.

The former star flanker and halfback was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983.

"I was extremely saddened to hear the news about the passing of the great Bobby Mitchell," Redskins owner Daniel Snyder said in a statement. "Bobby was a Hall of Fame player and executive and represented the Washington Redskins organization with integrity for over 50 years.

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"His passion for the game of football was unmatched by anyone I have ever met. Not only was he one of the most influential individuals in franchise history, but he was also one of the greatest men I have ever known. He was a true class act and will be sorely missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Gwen and the entire Mitchell family during this time."

Mitchell played collegiately at Illinois. At the time of his retirement, he ranked second in NFL history with 14,078 all-purpose yards. He worked for the Redskins' front office for more than 30 years after his playing career and served as a Redskins scout and assistant general manager before retiring in 2003. The Redskins won three Super Bowls during his front office tenure.

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